by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

May, 2015

It’s time for my annual post-Easter message. This year, I’m going to focus on “the leftovers,” the folks who learn a song after the Sunrise Service and Men’s Breakfast and then perform it during Easter Worship. It’s been my good fortune to be a part of “the leftovers” for most of the time I’ve been a part of Maplewood UMC.

After the crucifixion, the original disciples were, in a sense, “leftovers” too. They were the only ones left of the throngs who had followed him, cheering, less than a week before (Matt. 21:8-11; Mark 11:8-10; Luke19:36-40; John 12:12-18). Only one of the twelve disciples, “the disciple whom he loved,” was present at the crucifixion (John 19:26 ESV). The rest had fled. It’s fashionable to look down on Peter but at least he stuck around, along with “another disciple” (John 18:15 ESV); the other disciples ran away after Jesus was arrested.

Even after the resurrection, there was nothing left but a ragtag band of misfits who weren’t wanted, except by the authorities (John 20:19). Leftovers. They were the ones who were left after everyone else fell away. Jesus had once asked the disciples, “‘Do you want to go away as well?’” (John 6:67b ESV). And Peter replied, “‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,’” (vs. 68b ESV). They had nowhere to go, no one to turn to except each other and their shared faith.

But the savior who said “‘And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matt. 28:20b ESV) is the same God who led Isaiah to say in faith, “‘[F]ear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’” (Isa. 41:10 ESV). God won’t let us go, God will never abandon us.

Before his crucifixion, Jesus had told the disciples, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.” (John 16:32a ESV). He knew what would happen. But he also knew his friends wouldn’t remain “scattered.” The Holy Spirit would come to them and empower them for the task that lay ahead of them.

The same Holy Spirit who prepared them to be disciples is ready to equip us. We are empowered “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.” (Zech. 4:6b ESV). The “leftovers” became the seed for the church of which we are a part today. Jesus had told the disciples, “‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.’” (Mark 4:26b ESV). In the parable, the Gospel is the seed but so are we. God plants us and expects us to grow and flourish.

In time, empowered by the Holy Spirit, those original “leftovers” became thousands of believers (Acts 2:41; 4:4). After he and John had healed a beggar, the religious authorities asked Peter, “‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’” (Acts 4:7b ESV). And he replied “‘[B]y the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the
dead . . .’” (vs. 10b ESV). Peter wasn’t alone; the Holy Spirit was present with him; he also knew there were thousands of other Christians with him who would carry on the mission of the church.

A skillful cook like my wife, Charlotte, can turn leftovers into a delicious a creative meal. An even more skilled savior can turn “leftovers” like Peter and John, you and me, into a church, a meal fit to satisfy a hungry world. Jesus told Peter to “‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:17b ESV). We are called to do the same today. If we feed them in Jesus’ name, we can show the risen Christ to the world.

“‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’” (Matt. 5:14-16 ESV.)

Copyright © 2015 by David Phelps